3 Things I Learned from My First Week as a Developer Advocate

This week I started my new job at JetBrains as a Java Developer Advocate which I am super excited about! It’s been a fantastic week and my feet haven’t really touched the floor, but I wanted to summarise my learnings from week one. I hope you find them useful!

Free-Photos from Pixabay


Asking questions is a Good Thing™️

I’m not normally one to hold back on questions, but I find that it’s really easy to be less forthcoming with queries when you join a new company and start doing a job that you’re new to as well. After all, no one wants to look, or feel, stupid.

Of course what I need to remember is that I can’t possibly know everything. This feeling is amplified many times over when you are new to a company, a team, and a role. I had already obliterated this piece of advice by day #4 so I urge you not to do the same. Fortunately I was reminded of this by a colleague who clearly thought I needed to hear it (they were totally right, I did — thank you!).

Everytime I struggle to ask questions in unfamiliar environments, I remind myself that:

  • If I don’t know the answer, there’s a very good chance that someone else doesn’t either

  • Everyone wants me to succeed, I need to ask the questions that will empower me to do just that

  • Questioning shows engagement. It shows that I care and it helps me learn

Struggling improves learning

This may sound like it flies in the face of asking questions, but there has been some times this week when my immediate team were otherwise engaged and couldn’t answer my gazillionth question. As anyone who knows me will attest to, I am extremely stubborn when it comes to certain things. As it turns out, bending IntelliJ to my will is one of those.

And I got there, I solved the problems, each and every one of them by myself with the aid of Google and at times a walk around the block to work out what I was missing. It feels insanely good to solve a problem by myself and I will never (like ever) forget the following:

  • ⌘⇧8 gives you column select mode (I typed it that many times that it’s now in long-term-can-never-forget memory)

  • If you want IntelliJ to show intention actions and quick-fixes (⌥⏎) you need to make sure the caret is on the word you want it to deal with, not just the line. IntelliJ will highlight the word which is very helpful

  • If your Project window isn’t colour coded and you can’t interact with it, it’s entirely possible that you’re looking at the git Repositories window instead of Project… oops

  • I don’t need a 3rd party app for git, I can use ⌘9 and see it all in IntelliJ, perfect

I have a lot to do

It’s a really steep learning curve, I knew it would be and I am 100% okay with it. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact it’s hard, likely really hard. I did catch myself feeling quite overwhelmed quite quickly (day #3), but again, I was reminded that I can’t do everything, and neither can anyone else.

The skill is triaging the immense workload and being smart about what I work on and how I work on it. Some of the things I’ve found helped me are:

  • Automate it. If I can automate any part of my workflow, I do. I’m confident that there’s plenty more I can do in this area and I plan to sieve through the huge wealth of knowledge that my team and the business has to give me some more go-faster skills

  • Talk about it. Talking with my team has been invaluable. We prioritise work together, we challenge each other’s viewpoints, we bring new information to the table and we help each other.

  • Share it (early and often). As I’m working on new things I’m sharing them throughout the process. It’s much better to make a small change to process or content early on then wait until a big bang at the end!


When you’re in unfamiliar territory and you’re grappling with all sorts of unknowns and knowledge gaps, my top 3 tips are:

  • Ask lots of questions, they’re a Good Thing™️! ❓

  • Don’t worry about struggling to learn something, when you do crack it, and you will, it will be embedded in your memory for good. 🙌

  • Look at what you’re doing and share your workload with those that can help and empower you. 🥑

verbal communication,